Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth, Pastor
Rev. Millie Myren, Support Minister
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Sermon October 25, 2015
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
“THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS PATIENCE”
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
We’ve all probably heard this famous tongue-in-cheek prayer: Lord, give me patience! And give it to me now! If I were to ask how many of us here today are patient people – how many hands might go up? I fear patience is becoming a lost art. There are reasons for this but, really, who among us would be willing to portray ourselves as paragons of patience? Not me!
Sisters and brothers, where might we look to find patient people? It’s getting more difficult to find such people. Pastors should be the most patient of people – but, unfortunately, the increased modern-day stresses of being a pastor wear out the most patient of hearts. Last Sunday when I encountered the problems with the printer – I can’t say I was the most patient of people. Yet impatience is doing great harm to us all in body and soul.
Patience is the ability to endure difficult circumstances without resorting to some form of negativity – either in thought or in action. How much patience a person possesses can be determined by how long it takes – in difficult and trying circumstances – before getting upset and wanting to do something – anything – to correct the perceived problem!
In a 2012 study of millions of people, it was discovered that many people lose patience when watching a video – if the video fails to play within 2 seconds. 2 seconds! 2 seconds seems to be the limit of patience for many of us today!
We hear from the Book of Job that “impatience kills the fool.” (Job 5:2) I’d go even further and say that when we are trapped in impatience we are fools. When we are impatient – wisdom becomes impossible for us. As the great North African theologian Augustine stated: “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” In other words, no patience – no wisdom!
But is it not hard to be patient? It’s so easy becoming impatient. Am I the only one here who has gone shopping and then left my basket of items because the check-out line was too long? Am I the only one here who finds sitting for long periods in a doctor’s office a hard test of patience? Our lack of patience reveals itself in how quickly we become angry when things do not go perfectly – when things do not go “our way.”
My beloved Beth and I spent a lovely three days this past week up at the Abbey in Fontana, Wisconsin. Our time there was very relaxing and enjoyable. But driving back home - the closer we came to Chicago – the crazier the driving became. We were driving in the construction zones of I-90 – yet there were drivers who were still trying to drive at 80 miles an hour in those construction zones. Insanity, brothers and sisters, pure insanity!
It has been shown that our rapid pace of technology is rewiring us to be less and less patient. And here’s a serious problem: the less patient we are – the less empathy we possess. And the less empathy we possess – the further away from God we become. It’s not that God moves away from us – that is a theological impossibility. But, sisters and brothers, we can move away from God by our impatience and lack of empathy.
In a recent study it was discovered that our young people have 40% less empathy than 25 years ago. If this finding is true then “Houston – we have a problem!” And the problem is that we are all rushing around – glued to our smart phones – never paying any attention to anyone around us.
I frankly find it very disturbing when my beloved Beth and I are at a restaurant and I see couples spending all their time fiddling with their smart phones and texting instead of talking to one another. I wonder if they are texting each other! And this is happening all over the place! We are losing the ability to communicate verbally with each other!
Where do we go to learn patience? Patience means not only enduring a difficult situation. Patience means not returning harm or even annoyance when we are in a situation that requires patience. Patience is the ability to control one’s emotions, especially anger, even when being criticized or attacked. How rare is this?
Brothers and sisters, we have been misled to believe that when we feel anger – we should express it in some significant way. We have been misled to believe that if we don’t vent our anger – that our unexpressed anger will somehow cause us to suffer a heart attack. Well, guess what? This is completely wrong.
Newer medical findings clearly reveal that the danger of suffering a heart attack increases substantially if we express our anger in an angry way. If we blow up at others – our heart attack risk increases eight and a half times the normal risk. And the risk stays elevated for two hours after an angry outburst. The risk increases even more if we clench our fists!
Brothers and sisters, we need to rein in our anger and our rage! But we should also be aware that there is an addictive dimension to anger. There is an addictive dimension to irritation. There is an addictive dimension to rage. Many of us, unfortunately, get energized by anger.
After 40 years of professional ministry, I can honestly say I’ve never been in a congregation – or seen a congregation - that didn’t have to deal with anger in its midst. And, of course, the more anger – the less patience. Anger and patience cannot exist together. It’s either one or the other. Anger cancels out patience. And patience cancels out anger. One or the other!
And here’s something else – the less patience in a congregation – the more difficult it is for the Holy Spirit of the Living God to work in that congregation. Patience is not only one of the nine fruits of the Spirit – patience is THE essential requirement FOR the Spirit’s presence. The Spirit cannot work in an impatient person! Let me say this again: the Holy Spirit of the Living God cannot work in an impatient person. This is why patience is so important.
So – how might we become more patient? One way to become a person of patience is to become a person of deep and frequent prayer. We could pray the prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden before his death: “Not my will but your will be done.”
Impatience is often a demand that things be different than they are. We say to ourselves and everyone who will listen: this shouldn’t be this way! I don’t want this to be this way. Well, I am not God. I am not in control of the universe. The impatient person forgets that he or she is not God. Unfortunately, some of us forget that we are not God on a regular basis.
Who’s in charge? God is in charge! And God has been in charge since creation began so many eons ago. God has been patiently working to bring the cosmos into completion. God is a paragon of patience – working throughout the incredibly long expanse of time since the universe began with the Word of God being spoken into the darkness; the Word of God being spoken into the void of nothingness. The expanse of creation – when we ponder it – reveals the ultimate patience of our Creator.
But the patience of God also reveals itself in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How long the people Israel had to wait for the messiah – for the One who would save them from themselves! Yet in God’s own time – and I believe God has a very different notion of time than we creatures do – in God’s own time Jesus came among us to save us from ourselves.
So we who follow Jesus – we who follow Christ – are called to be like him. And if we want to become more like Jesus – if we want to become more Christ-like – which is the true point of being a Christian – then we need to pray whenever we find ourselves impatient: not my will but your will be done!
Our Brother Paul proclaims patience as a necessary virtue for walking the way of Jesus. In 1stTimothy, Paul extols Jesus as possessing unlimited patience. The more like Christ we become – the more patient we become. It’s that simple! The less patient we are – the less like Christ we are. It’s that simple! The author of Hebrews teaches us that we need patience to do God’s will. God’s will and patience are interconnected. It’s that simple! Amen!